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Fatties Need Not Apply August 17, 2009

Posted by Jae in Fat, Stupid News.
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Wandering around Shakesville today, I found this gem of an article: The Way We Live Now: Fat Tax.

Just from the title, I knew that this was going to be good, but it really exceeded my expectations in a wow-this-makes-me-sick kind of way.  In summary, the article focuses on the Cleavland Clinic’s policy of not hiring smokers and espouses the virtues of similarly vilifying fat people to save money.  (By the way, all of the following emphasis is mine.)

Refusing to hire smokers may be more hard-nosed than the other parts of the program. But given the social marginalization of smoking, the policy is hardly shocking. All in all, the wellness initiative seems to be a feel-good story.

Actually, I do find it shocking because I believe that what someone does with their own time and with their own body is none of my business.  While I don’t smoke, and I certainly appreciate laws prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places, it never dawned on me that I should be able to penalize someone engaging in a legal behavior that I find unacceptable.  I don’t consider myself to be a libertarian, but the idea that employers should essentially be able to police the choices you make in your life really burns my cookies.

In order to survive in this society, everyone needs money which, for most people, means you need a job.   In the United States, we already have less vacation time than most other Western countries and we work some of the longest hours too, so we sacrifice a lot of time and life to our jobs.  If employers can start discriminating against job applicants for smoking, where will what we sacrifice end?  Couldn’t they refuse to hire people who have unprotected sex, because they may catch an STD and then they would miss work and cost money by using their health benefits (if they even have them)?  What about people who drink alcohol?  There are some health risks to that.  Or people who engage in risky hobbies?  Sure that mountain-biker might improve his cardiovascular health, but what happens if he falls and breaks a leg!?  Or hell, what about people who watch TV in the evenings instead of reading?  They could be learning more if they read a book instead of watching a reality show, and this could help them in their work.  Shouldn’t employers have some say in that too?

No, they shouldn’t and I’m sure it sounds ridiculous (to most people) for me to even suggest that.  But once you give an employer the right to govern one element of your private life, other restrictions are not going to be far behind.

That’s the case at the Cleveland Clinic.  Because the Clinic’s Chief Executive, Delos M. Cosgrove, not only loves their no-smokers-allowed policy, but would love to expand it if not for those pesky legal restrictions.  Can anyone guess to whom he would like to expand this policy.  Why, to fat people of course!

“Why is it unfair?” he asked. “Has anyone ever shown the law of conservation of matter doesn’t apply?” People’s weight is a reflection of how much they eat and how active they are. The country has grown fat because it’s consuming more calories and burning fewer. Our national weight problem brings huge costs, both medical and economic. Yet our anti-obesity efforts have none of the urgency of our antismoking efforts. “We should declare obesity a disease and say we’re going to help you get over it,” Cosgrove said.

Oh, I don’t know Dr. Cosgrove, maybe it’s unfair because a person’s body size is none of your fucking business.  Even if we discount the fact that there is a genetic component to body size, the idea that you should be able to govern the size of your employee’s asses is insane.  What would you do if you hired someone, who you felt was of an acceptable weight, who later gained weight?  Suspend them until they lost weight?  Fire them if they couldn’t or didn’t want to?

The debate over health care reform has so far revolved around how insurers, drug companies, doctors, nurses and government technocrats might be persuaded to change their behavior. And for the sake of the economy and the federal budget, they do need to change their behavior. But there has been far less discussion about how the rest of us might also change our behavior. It’s as if we have little responsibility for our own health. We instead outsource it to something called the health care system.

Oh yes!  Of course, that is one of the major problems of our health care system.  It isn’t that insurance companies are using every trick in the book to avoid paying for necessary treatments or that drug companies are doing everything they can to make a huge profit off of illness and suffering.  It’s that people just don’t care enough about their health not to be fat.  Because according to a study referenced on the left side of this very article, 9.1% of the annual health care costs in the United States are “obesity related.”  Yes, that’s right: less than 10% of our health care costs go towards treating these so-called obesity related problems, including heart disease and diabetes. If not for that ten percent of costs, everything would be a fucking field of flowers; everyone would have all the health care they need, and no one would ever die.

Let’s ignore the fact that the top risk factor for heart disease is increasing age and that increased age is also a risk factor for developing diabetesAnd that our population of people over age 65 tripled from 1990-2000 and has been growing ever since.  I’m sure that an increasing older population has nothing to do with the increase in the cost of treating heart disease and diabetes; it is all those lazy fatties who clench their teeth shut when presented with a vegetable.

Not to mention that even this article acknowledges that you probably aren’t paying the costs of your fat coworkers health care:

Cosgrove mentioned to me an idea that some economists favor: charging higher health-insurance premiums to anyone with a certain body-mass index. Harsh? Yes. Fair? You can see the argument. And yet it turns out that the obese already do pay something resembling their fair share of medical costs, albeit in an indirect way. Overweight workers are paid less than similarly qualified, thinner colleagues, according to research by Jay Bhattacharya and M. Kate Bundorf of Stanford. The cause isn’t entirely clear. But the size of the wage difference is roughly similar to the size of the difference in their medical costs.

Certainly one of the causes is fairly clear to anyone with two brain cells to rub together: fat hatred.  Fat people are repeatedly categorized as being lazier, sloppier, and dumber than thin people, and it is often claimed that they cost the healthcare system more money than thin people.  Considering the widespread nature of these beleifs, are we really that suprised that employers are paying fat workers less than their thin colleagues?

But that isn’t enough for people like Cosgrove.  In spite of this study, he still wants to find a way to charge fat people more for their insurance (if he can’t avoid hiring them all together); if they are already paying their fair share do to the decrease in pay (and this assumes that the alleged increased costs of obesity are true, though as I showed above, that is also complicated), why should they also be penalized with higher health insurance premiums?

Cosgrove’s would-be approach may have its problems. The obvious one is its severity. The more important one is probably its narrowness: not even one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals can do much to reduce obesity. The government, however, can. And that is the great virtue of Cosgrove’s idea. He is acknowledging that any effort to attack obesity will inevitably involve making value judgments and even limiting people’s choices. Most of the time, the government has no business doing such things. But there is really no other way to cure an epidemic.

Control, that’s why.  The end of this article brings me right back to my original point.  It isn’t about increased costs or keeping people healthy; this is just one more thing that those in power would like to control.  If they can keep us all worried about not being able to find a job because we are fat, than we won’t dare to worry about being overworked and undercompensated.  We won’t speak up about a stressful work environment or a lack of vacation time.  We will be too busy worrying about keeping ourselves acceptable enough to remain employed!  Someone will decide for us what is important in our lives and what we are entitled to have, and if we don’t agree, well…that will just have to be too bad.

People worry that a single-payer healthcare system would be a step on the road to the government dictating what sort of treatment we would get, punishing those they deemed unacceptable, well as you can see, that’s already possible.  When everything is about profit and cost, those things that supposedly cost the most are going to be the first things people try to cut down.  This is why we need to move towards a system that is based around caring for people, not making money by denying those who need help.

Dating the Other August 14, 2009

Posted by Jae in Dating & Relationships, Fat, Intersectionality.
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Today, I let my subscription to match.com expire without having even been on one date.

This is not my first time on the online dating carousel, though I’ve never had much luck at it, mostly, because I would chicken out before meeting up with anyone I corresponded with.  I did have a brief semi-relationship with a guy I met on Yahoo! personals once; he was nice, but the two of us just weren’t in the right place so things didn’t work out.

Perhaps another reason for my lack of luck with online dating was that I never contacted anyone who I found interesting; I just waited for men to contact me.  Back in the day, I was too shy and insecure to make the first move, even online, and I told myself that if I didn’t act that just meant that the right guy was going to come to me.  This time around, I decided not to be so passive about things; I promised myself I would contact anyone who I thought sounded interesting.   Sadly, I didn’t run across a whole lot of guys who really tickled my fancy, but what I did find was a whole lot of support for society’s standard notion of beauty.

On match.com, every profile you view is assigned a sort of compatibility percentage; it tells you how many traits you share with that individual’s ideal match (and vice versa).  Ninety-nine percent of the time, if I was a near perfect match with someone the reason that I wasn’t a perfect match was that I had described my body type* as “a few extra pounds.”  Among those who specified a preferred body type, I never came across anyone who was willing to go any higher than that and most didn’t go higher than “average.”

Something else troubling that I noticed: the amount of men who, if they checked a preferred ethnicity, often selected a preference for white women or women of a background considered by our culture to be exotic (i.e.: Asian, Native American, and/or Middle Eastern).  Occasionally, Latina women were included, but the rarest of all stated preferences (at least in my limited research) seemed to be for African-American women**.

The message here is clear:  there is the beautiful, the thin, white or exotic women and there is the other.  This isn’t really news to anyone I’m sure, it certainly wasn’t news to me, but it really drove home the fact that even seemingly slight things, like checking a preferred race or body type box on a dating website, continues to help perpetuate a culture where women are simply objects.  So many people think that hatred is always something huge and obvious, like an unapologetic white supremacist or a person who thinks that disabled people should be euthanized; what they fail to realize is that subtle actions are what allow these larger than life examples to grow.

I can already hear the objections:  ‘It’s just a personal preference,’ ‘I’m just not attracted to (insert culturally unacceptable feature here); it’s not racist or sizeist,’ and that may be true for the individual person.  However, what people don’t often consider is that when an individual has a preference that just happens to fall in line with what is considered culturally attractive, there is some question as to why they hold that particular preference.

Speaking only from my own experience as a white, cisgendered, able-bodied,  moderately fat woman** I can say that I received some notes or winks from men who had said that they were not interested in women my size.  I included a full body picture of myself and indicated that I was heavier than average, so there is little chance they missed this fact.  I can only assume that those men either a) were contacting anyone and everyone to see what would stick or b) they looked at my picture and decided that I really wasn’t too fat for comfort.  But yet, before they saw me, they had it in their minds already that they wouldn’t want to meet anyone who dared tick “a few extra pounds” as their body type, which leads me to believe it isn’t totally about a personal attraction, but that they, like most everyone alive, have taken a cue from the world they live in about what they should find attractive and, more importantly, worthwhile.  Before they read my profile and decided they liked my sense of humor, or thought I had pretty eyes, or seemed engaging, they decided that no one with my body could be any of those things or that if they were those things, that those things were less important than being conventionally attractive.

For example, I have a friend who I fell for when we first met, and eventually he told me that he liked me too.  He told me that he had been feeling pretty lousy about life, but that spending time with me made him forget anything was wrong.  We stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, just talking.  We made everyday trips to run errands into all-day hangouts.  We talked baseball.  We talked literature. We talked art.  But when it came time to do something about it, he  balked.  He didn’t tell me it was because I wasn’t thin or because I was white (I later found out that the only white girls he has ever dated were either foreign or punk-rock type girls [though it is important to note he is not a punk-rock type boy]), but he didn’t have to.  Because I’ve seen the girls he’s dated since; they have all been very thin and all been considered exotic for one reason or another.  And I’ve seen him compromise on things he considered important to date them.  It’s the look of the person that matters most for him, and who that person is clearly comes in second.  In our case, it didn’t matter in the end how much we clicked, because I wasn’t what he was supposed to want.  And on the other hand it also doesn’t matter if these beautiful women he dates are smart or dig the same kind of music he does, he appreciates those qualities but wouldn’t miss them if they were absent, because they are  beautiful.

Those are the kinds of choices we make about furniture or clothes.  We’ll wear a pair of pinchy high heels instead of our comfiest sneakers on a job interview, and while we’re at it, we’ll buy a business suit that we wouldn’t wear otherwise because we want to look professional so we can land the job.   But making those kinds of choices about who to fall in love with or hell, who to even just spend a couple of fun evenings with?  That equates people with an itchy sofa you bought because it matched the rest of the living room furniture.  And that is just fucking problematic.

*I could write a whole ‘nother post on how one is supposed to chose one’s body type on such a site, and how men are given a lot more leeway than women.  And maybe I will!

**There is an interesting discussion on Racialicious that talks about this from a race and ethnicity perspective, but the post is nearly a year old.  If anyone knows of any others (my googling skills have failed me here), feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Dear NY Times: Fat People Need Clothes Too! August 12, 2009

Posted by Jae in Uncategorized.
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Dear Mr. Hoyt*,

I am writing you today in response to an article written by Cintra Wilson entitled “Playing to the Middle,” which seems to be a review of sorts of the new J.C. Penney in Manhattan.

I do not know quite where to begin with this piece.  In short, it was stunningly classist and bloated with thin priviledge and written with such a snide, holier-than-thou tone that it was practically unreadable.  Ms. Wilson’s contempt for anyone above a size eight is clear.  While Manhattan is a city of “sleek” fashions, J.C. Penney is “dowdy” and “waddling” around Manhattan.  She mocks what she perceive to be the “obese mannaquins” and remarks that she is glad her size two self isn’t really that interested in shopping there, because J.C. Penney’s dare’s to provide rack space to mid-sizes like a ten and even the very smallest of the plus sizes: a sixteen.

As a woman who wears a size 18/20, a size by the way that Ms. Wilson suggests should be happy to spend $80 on a shapeless polyster sack, I am sadly used to this sort of attitude.  I am used to hearing it in the halls of high schools out of the mouths of sixteen-year-old smart alecs and in the comments of internet postings; I am highly disappointed to find it in the Times.  Everyone deserves to have something to wear that makes them feel good about themselves, no matter if they are a size zero or a size 32.

And what I disappoints me even further, is the fact that, aside from all the fat-bashing in this article, there is a lot of class bashing too.   Even as Ms. Wilson lauds what a great development this is for those who are not, as she puts it, “stress-thin, morbidly workaholic, Pilates-tortured Manhattan ectomorphs,” she insults the clothes there are being not only fashionlesss, but implies that wearing anything from there only signals that one is, to be plain, a loser, and probably an idiot as well; her ancedote about J.C. Penny’s apparently vast discrepency with sizes in other stores ends with a dig about someone being able to wear a size medium shirt with “enough room in front for eight months of unborn twins” thinking how thin they must be to wear a medium.  Those whose budget only allows for them to shop at stores like J.C. Penny are not any dumber or any less aware of their body size than those who can spend on a blouse what most New Yorkers spend on rent.

On her personal website, Ms. Wilson posted a response where she apologized to those she had offended by claiming that she loves fat people, really, and that she really meant for this to be a positive review and she was sorry that we were too offended to see that.   I propose that someone there perhaps send her back to journalism 101.

*  If you would like to send a letter to Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor for the New York Times, you may do so here: Contact Mr. Hoyt.

Skinny Jeans (or What I am Allowed to Wear) August 12, 2009

Posted by Jae in Uncategorized.
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My wardrobe consists pretty much exclusively of jeans.  I’ve never cared for khakis or slacks.  I don’t often wear skirts or dresses.  Even in the summer, I mostly wear jeans or, if it’s warm or I’m in the mood, a pair of capris –which also will probably be made of denim.  It just seems easy to me.  I’ve never thought of myself as being able to assemble a cute outfit, so I feel like if I stick to jeans and a nice top, I’ll end up looking presentable, even if I’m not on the cutting edge of fashion.

When I was growing up, I never felt I could wear jeans.  Even though I realize now that I wasn’t fat (at least, not for most of my non-jeans wearing life), I always felt like I was too big to wear jeans.   The first time I can remember getting a pair of jeans for myself was in the fourth grade.  My pediatrician, without considering that I was starting puberty and beginning to reach my full adult height (I was a tall kid, who hit 5’4″ quickly and then stopped and became a shortish adult), told my parents that I needed to lose weight and so I went on some sort of diet that summer.  By the time school started, I must have lost enough weight because my Nanny took me out shopping; she told me I could pick out a new outfit as a reward.  I bought a pair of blue, yellow, and red striped jeans and a black top.  I remember wearing them the first day of school, so that I could be sure to impress everyone.

My jeans wearing life didn’t last long.  I’d be lying if I said I had any other clothes memories from fourth or fifth grade, but I do remember going back to school shopping the summer before sixth grade.  This time, I snubbed jeans in favor of palazzo pants; I thought they were more sophisticated and adult, and that was exactly what I wanted to be in the sixth grade.  When those pants didn’t turn me into a sophisticated adult, I decided I would spend my Christmas money on some new jeans.  Over the break we went to the mall and I tried on the biggest size in the juniors section, a 13, and they didn’t fit.  I came home and wrote in my diary that I was a fat pig and a a failure, and I vowed to go on a diet.

I don’t think I seriously attempted to wear jeans again until college, when my obssesive dieting/eating disorder started to make me thinner, and I’ve been wearing them ever since.   Yesterday’s post on Shapeley Prose about a woman who took a special exercise class just to fit into her skinny jeans and the ensuing discussion really made me think though, even though now I happily buy Lane Bryant’s Right Fit jeans, do I wear them as much as I do just to prove I can?  I like jeans, don’t get me wrong, they are comfortable and go with pretty much anything, but where they used to be the clothing I lusted after, now they have just become an easy outfit choice.  And I think this is one more way of telling myself that I am not worth the time/money/thought/etc it would take to put together something that would be both comfortable and pretty.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday online window shopping for clothes and creating wish lists of things I would normally be drawn to, but would never attempt to buy because I feel like I have permission to wear them.  While I don’t see myself giving up jeans completely (because I do still like them), I think it is time to expand my range of outfits beyond what I feel I am allowed to wear.

The Tyranny of the Gym August 11, 2009

Posted by Jae in Uncategorized.
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As part of my quest to take better care of myself,  I joined a gym.

That is so stereotypical, it isn’t even funny.  Most of the time, when we hear about someone joining a gym to take better care of themselves, at least a part of that care (usually a big part, if not the whole thing) revolves around losing weight.  For me though, this was a choice I made to help me break out of a really destructive pattern.  This winter, while applying to graduate school, I let exercise slide.  If you’ve never applied to graduate school, let me tell you, it’s very stressful.  I waited a year to apply to this program and my whole life revolved around getting in; I had no solid plan for what I would do if I was rejected.  And once the applications were sent in, all I could think about was getting rejected.  Suddenly it seemed a lot easier and a lot more appealing to lay down on the couch and watch TV, so I did.   The problem is that I kept on doing that, even when it wasn’t appealing anymore.  I was bored, tired no matter how much I slept, and I was unmotivated to do most anything, and I wanted to change that.

So I decided, I would try to put movement back into my life.  I bought some new exercise DVDs, tried walking more, and found myself still very bored.  After trying out the gym at a resort I visited last month and loving how I felt after going there, I sought out one to join one at home.  Thankfully, my gym is not one that is overtly pushing weight loss.  They have a scale, but only one, shoved off to the side of the room, and it is just an old dial type scale.  None of the classes are called anything like “Annihilate your fat ass bootcamp.”  They don’t sell any diet pills or supplements.  They didn’t even try to sell me any personal training.   It seems that it is just a place where people come to exercise, for whatever reason, and that is how it should be.

For years, I wondered if I were the kind of person who might enjoy working out in a gym, but I was too afraid to join.  During my dieting/eating disorder days, I told myself that once I was thin, I would be allowed to join a gym, because only then would it be acceptable for me to be seen exercising in public.  The funny thing is, I exercised in public all the time.  One of my top forms of exercise was walking and, unless you are on a treadmill or doing one of those walking DVDs, chances are good that you will be walking outside in full view of people.  But while I was walking, I would never do any of those standard walking moves, like pumping my arms or even carrying handweights, because, oh my god, what if someone saw me?  What if they saw me and knew I was…exercising!!!11111!!! The horror!  The agony!  The shame!

I may chuckle about it now, but at the time, I was dead serious.  The one time I did try to use a gym, I was called out for being fat, so it stood to reason that the only way to avoid the shame I felt then was to avoid letting anyone know I had the gall to think I could exercise.

Even now, I see myself visiting those old thought patterns from time to time.  Just yesterday, as I walked on the treadmill, I found myself glancing out of the corner of my eye at all the people next to me, running on their treadmills, and I wondered if I too should break into a sprint.  Nevermind that I don’t like to run, or that I shouldn’t run even if I did like it as I have knee issues, but being the only walker in the room made me wonder if maybe I shouldn’t just stick to the exercise bike and leave the treadmills to the “real exercisers.”

Of course, I mentally smacked myself afterwards.  I am a real exerciser.  Anyone exercising at any given moment is an exerciser*.  In spite of the constant stream of encouragement we get to always be pushing ourselves harder, faster, longer, what have you, the truth is that movement is not a gift reserved only for those who looks like they belong on the cover of Shape magazine or can effortlessly run six miles.

I am not foolish enough to believe I will be able bodied forever.  Someday, barring any accidents or illness in the meanwhile, as my body ages the amount and kind of exercise I am capable of will most likely change; that is the truth for every able-bodied person.  So waiting around to be sure I’m not offending anybody else by insisting on walking on the treadmill while they run, making sure that no one sees me swimming lest they think I think I’m the next Michael Phelps, that wastes my time and my life.

And I don’t want to do that anymore.

*I think exerciser is also the weirdest word I’ve used today.

It’s been awhile. August 11, 2009

Posted by Jae in Me, myself, and I.
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I’m pretty sure that no one really reads this at the moment, but I decided that I wanted/needed to start blogging again.

Some quick updates:

  • I am starting grad school at the end of this month; I’m going to be studying counseling.  I am very excited.
  • I really fell off the intuitive eating bandwagon during the application process and have just been treating myself poorly.  I have started to get back on track now, but it is slow going.
  • I’ve written maybe 1/2 to 2/3’s of a novel.  That is also a slow going, but the more time I spend with it, the better I feel about some day getting it into shape.
  • My lovely dog, the one I spoke about in earlier blogs, has been diagnosed with epilepsy, but she is doing well and I am so thankful to have her in my life.  She is currently curled up sleeping under my desk chair, much to my delight.

And that’s all for now.  I’ve been reading blogs and commenting, so I’m not totally out of the FA loop, but I’m hoping to be a bit more involved now.  I look back on these enteries and I see that, few though they are, that I was being a lot better to myself when I took the time to blog.  Perhaps not-blogging was the first sign that I was about to quit taking care of myself as well as I should have.

But that is about to change!

My Life: A Short Post. April 16, 2008

Posted by Jae in Me, myself, and I, The Cast.
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This last month has been, in a word, insane.  March began with my boss on vacation which dumped a lot on my plate at work.  After she returned, there were some staffing shake-ups that made us all wonder what was going on there.  Then, just when things seem to be settling down, my father has a heart attack.

So that’s where I have been.  And now that things are starting to wind down, perhaps there will be some time to do some posting.

Today’s Special: Virtue with a Heaping Spoonful of Self-loathing March 29, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Fat, Jobz.
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So our healthy lunch program has begun, and it is…awkward. I decided that since I couldn’t stop the program, I would just personally avoid it, but that’s pretty much impossible to do because there are always questions from coworkers about who tried the food and who didn’t, who liked it and who didn’t, and the slightly judgmental why that comes along with taking no part in it.

Truthfully, I’m not finding it that hard to deal with, but a year or two ago I would have found it excruciating. I have never been good with eating in public; in fact there was a time when I could barely manage it. I feared, as I suspect many eating-disordered people do, that I was being judged for what I ate, that people were looking at my plate and tallying calories to decide if I was virtuous or a total pig. And in some way this is true; I don’t know a single soul who hasn’t had someone, sometimes a friend, sometimes a relative, other times a total stranger, comment on what they were eating.

For me, these comments definitely left their mark. When I was in high school I went on a field trip with my English class; a couple of my traveling companions were guys I had known for a couple of years. As we sat in the grass in the park enjoying our lunch, one boy, who I was starting to fall for, remarked that my turkey sandwich was the first thing he had ever seen me eat. I (sadly) how proud I felt in that moment (even though they in no way expressed admiration for my food-avoiding skills). They noticed how little I seemed to need food! I was a worthy girl-type human being! I can also remember comment that came from my grandfather, the sweetest man to ever live. He remarked that I seemed to be eating more at dinner one night and I stopped fork in midair and didn’t eat another bite. In retrospect, I can only imagine how bad I made him feel. My grandfather believed in food; happiness for him was taking people out to dinner. Here he was, happy to see me eating, and there I was paralyzed by the voice in my head screaming “PIG!!!!”

Even though I’m a hundred miles away from those moments, I doubt I’ll ever forget them or the feelings they inspired. So having the girl who sits across the room want to know why I didn’t eat a pasty plate of pasta with cardboardy meatballs can be extra unpleasant for me; I still feel a little like I’m being accused of something.

But the more I hear the questions, the more I realize that they aren’t really questioning me; they are questioning themselves. Just the other day we were sitting down to lunch when one of my coworkers passed by on her way to the gym, lamenting the fact that she had to go to the gym instead of eating lunch. It wasn’t that she wanted us all to drop what we were doing and join her on the treadmill, but that she wanted to drop what she was doing and have some diet chicken salad, but she wasn’t allowed. She had no choice (in her mind) but to spend her thirty-minute lunch running at the gym. Now, if she had been psyched about working out during lunch, there wouldn’t even be a need for discussion; she would have been doing what she wanted to. However, the longing look she gave us as she ran out the door told anyone watching exactly how much she wanted to go to the gym.

And it’s this same kind if thinking that fuels questions and comments about food choices. My coworker doesn’t really want to know why I think I’m too good for a diet lunch –she wants to know why she isn’t good enough for a real one. I only wish I knew how to tell her that she is, but somehow I doubt she would believe me.

Confession Time March 24, 2008

Posted by Jae in The Crazy.
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For almost ten years, I have been living with a secret. Though there are people who know it, they never bring it up, never want to talk about it; even when they heard it for the first time, they had very little to say. It is the kind of thing that needs to be talked about, begs for it in fact, but at the same time it seems to stop all conversation. When I told my former best friend she was stunned and said she needed time to think; the next day she asked me never to bring it up again unless I really needed to. Another friend who shared my secret never wanted to talk about it either. Eventually, I stopped trying to talk about it with anyone.

But this month is Tell Someone Month, and so I decided that now might be a good time to break my silence: I am a cutter.

(Note: I don’t intend for this entry to be especially triggering, but if you feel you are very vulnerable, you might want to stop reading here.)

Wow; that was actually harder than I thought it would be. Truth be told, I never found it easy to call myself a cutter, or a self-injurer, or a self-harmer, or any of that; somehow I never thought my problem was real enough to deserve naming. Though I have had occasional relapses (my last was nearly seven months ago), I have been in recovery for the past three or so years. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I would ever get to a place where that was possible.

I had an accident the summer before my fourteenth birthday that left me with a bum knee and a constant sense of terror. The randomness of what happened terrified me; it might have been the first time I really realized that terrible things could happen that I couldn’t control. Suddenly everything about the world seemed frightening. I had always been shy, but I became crippled by fear of interacting with people (I was also still dealing with a very negative friendship, though I had not yet realized how much it had affected me). I also became terrified of injury and disease for the first time in my life; I was sure every headache was an aneurysm and every occasional flutter of my heart a sign of congestive heart failure. I also hated my body. For awhile, I ate compulsively, but eventually the pendulum swung the other way and I lived on one tiny meal a day.

It was right around Memorial Day that I injured myself for the first time. I don’t remember much about it; the only thing that sticks in my mind was that I had just had a fight with my parents. By the next year though, I was harming myself several times a week; sometimes it was almost daily. To this day, I’m not 100% sure what my reasons were for doing it. My best guess is simply that I was loaded with a lot of destructive feelings and I had no constructive way to release them; I didn’t feel close enough to most people to confide in them. I also was a stereotypical “good girl” type; I didn’t engage in any other after-school-special behavior. I didn’t smoke or drink. I didn’t sneak out to go to parties. I didn’t cut school. I was too insecure to consider sleeping around. I was the girl who got good grades and was home every, single, night of the week. Occasionally I went out with friends, but that was it. And when you’re sixteen and everything about the world frightens you so that you don’t even feel safe in your own mind, when you hate yourself and expect everyone else to hate you too, and you’re carrying a little more baggage than you can handle…something has to break. For me, harming myself was sort of a way to reign in the madness.

I wish I could tell you how I got over it, but I’m not sure exactly how it happened. Things changed. I changed. Just a few years ago, I was convinced that I was mentally ill…and maybe I was. The smart thing for me to do would have probably been to see a therapist, but I was afraid. Though I was more than willing to admit something was wrong with me, indeed I had a list of different diagnoses in my head whose criteria I felt I fit in one way or another, going to therapy was too proactive for me; the only way I could recover was to take it so slowly that I barely noticed it happening.

Often, a person who is totally unfamiliar with the concept of self-harm will look at it as a problem in and of itself, and it is for a number of reasons, but in most every case it is just a symptom of a larger problem. I was lucky; I got away from the dark cloud that followed me everywhere. I am no longer crippled by fears and insecurities. And I learned other ways to cope with stress and emotional pain. In the past three years any time I have given in to the urge to self-injure, it has felt empty and mostly pointless, kind of like calling up an old friend who you don’t really like anymore.

I thought that once self-harm was no longer a part of my everyday life anymore, there would be no need to tell this story to anyone. My scars are hidden from public view, and in fact they have mostly faded; there is no reason the truth can not go with them. Except that my truth may matter to someone else out there.

Self-harm typically goes on in silence, and even when people try to break that silence they might find, as I did, that it isn’t as easy as merely telling someone. The important thing though is to keep talking, keep trying to get the truth out, because creating a space where people can truly be honest about what’s going on in their heads, is the only hope we have of preventing people from harming themselves in the first place.

For anyone out there who would like more information some excellent resources can be found at Secret Shame, Selfinjury.org, and LifeSigns.

Carnie Wilson: I Will Be Thin Again! March 19, 2008

Posted by Jae in Stupid News.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

Carnie Wilson’s is the first weight loss surgery I can really remember hearing about. I was about fourteen when she had it and knee deep in self-hatred. I remember feeling so jealous that she had the chance to do something that was “guaranteed” to work when I was stuck trying to skip meals without my parents noticing.

But, unsurprisingly, that guarantee wasn’t worth all that much and now Ms. Wilson has put some weight back on and she recently sat down with OK Magazine to produce one of the most disturbing interviews I’ve read in awhile.

Some highlights…

OK: How are you feeling?

Carnie: I’ve hit rock bottom with my weight. Everyone can see that I’m bigger, but I cannot hibernate. I’ve never lied or been dishonest about what’s going on in my life. Even all these years later, having had such a great weight-loss story, being back in this place is so familiar. And it hurts. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. It doesn’t feel good when you have to struggle to get your pants on.

(Emphasis mine.)

I agree, it doesn’t, but, not to have a state-the-obvious contest or anything, might she feel better right away if she bought pants that fit instead of torturing herself trying to squeeze into her old ones?

OK: How did you react to the recent pictures of yourself on celebrity Web site TMZ.com?

Carnie: I actually thought my face looked pretty. Sometimes I get mad and think, “Why do the paparazzi follow me?” And then I thought, “I don’t feel mad. I feel determined.” Somebody is struggling just the way I am. They’ve gained some weight back; they’re reverting to some old habits. They need a catalyst. Why do I have to be scrutinized for every pound? The truth is, I just want to be a good mom. I want to be healthy and not revert to food when I feel anxiety.

(Again, emphasis mine.)

Carnie asks an excellent question here: Why should she be scrutinized for every pound? Why should anyone? There seems to be a glimmer of understanding here that she is not defined by her weight, but at the same time she thinks that the pressure to be thin will help her to lose weight. Guess she hasn’t seen the news recently.

OK: What was your biggest diet downfall before gastric bypass surgery?

Carnie: Doughnuts. You don’t get to 300 pounds by eating diet pie. Ice cream. I would go through McDonalds drive-throughs and have a Big Mac, Super Size fries, a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets, a pie and a shake. That would be one meal for me — horrid! Now, if I start my morning out with a piece of toast, I’m doomed for the day. It’s like, give me carbs! Surgery or no surgery, I’ve gotten to know who I am with food and how my body reacts.

If I had to highlight something there, it would have been the whole quote. It included every, single, what-fat-people-eat stereotype you can think of from doughnuts to consuming half the items on the McDonald’s value menu in one sitting, and obviously she paints this kind of behavior in a negative light. However, eating a piece of toast? Also bad! No eating at all! That solves everything! *rolls eyes*

OK: What was life like after the surgery?

Carnie: In 2003, I was drinking heavily. Maybe I couldn’t handle feeling that great. I remember driving down Coldwater Canyon [in California] and thinking I could just turn this wheel and drive right off a cliff. In 2004, I reached a bad low and stopped drinking cold turkey. Thirteen days before I got pregnant, I got sober.

She felt so good, she started binge-drinking and thinking about suicide? It’s a good thing I didn’t actually try to get this surgery when I was fourteen; I don’t think I could’ve handled being that happy.

OK: Any regrets about having the gastric bypass?
Carnie: No, it was the best thing I ever did. If I didn’t have the surgery, I’d probably be dead My liver was enlarged; it was toxic. I had sleep apnea — I was waking up choking 10 times a night. My cholesterol and blood pressure were high. I was pre-diabetic and had circulation problems, slipped disks in my back, acne and chronic headaches. The surgery taught me to be accountable for what I put in my mouth. The truth is that the weight loss happened so fast that I couldn’t absorb it. Everyone was watching and there was so much pressure.

Because teh fat, unlike binge-drinking, makes your liver toxic. Not to mention that all the research on the subject says that fat is the most deadly thing there is. And it causes acne! And headaches!

And finally…

OK: Have you thought about just accepting yourself as a plus-sized woman?

Carnie: I don’t think I’m going to be healthy at this weight for long. I feel those extra 50 pounds. Plus, I’ve got a closet full of clothes that are size 8 that I would like to get back into again.

Obviously the answer to that question is no, but I especially like how she doesn’t address it directly. To me, lusting after a closet full of size-eights doesn’t sound as healthy as embracing the size sixteen body she already has, but who am I kidding? That’s crazy talk.

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